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Pennsylvania lawmakers' contradictory approaches to discrimination

Learn more about two starkly contradictory viewpoints emerging from the Pennsylvania House in regards to discrimination.
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    February 09, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- If you have ever been discriminated against at the workplace, you know the physical, financial and emotional toll discrimination can take. You have probably never thought that there should be fewer protections against discrimination. But, one Pennsylvania lawmaker apparently disagrees, having recently sought support for a proposal that would effectively end discrimination protections in the workplace, in housing and in other areas of life. Meanwhile, a different member of the Pennsylvania House introduced starkly contradictory legislation that would expand the scope of workplace discrimination protections if passed.

New familial status and LGBT discrimination protections counterpoint to Denlinger proposal

Representative Gordon Denlinger has been a Lancaster County lawmaker for a decade. He is currently serving as the chairman on the House Subcommittee on Fiscal Policy. Representative Denlinger may have a long record of service, but his latest proposal is raising some eyebrows.

Dubbed the "Freedom of Conscience Amendment," Representative Denlinger is seeking support for his proposal that would -- in his words, as reported by the Philadelphia Daily News -- amend the state constitution to "prohibit government from punishing an individual or entity if the individual or entity makes hiring or other employment decisions, or provides services, accommodation...goods or privileges based on sincerely held beliefs."

In effect, the language of the proposal would legitimize making hiring, firing, promotion or other employment actions on the basis of protected classes like race, religion, or gender as long as those decisions were pursuant to a "sincerely held belief." Representative Denlinger claims his proposed amendment was spurred by concern for religiously affiliated employers being forced to provide health care coverage that includes birth control under the Affordable Care Act, but he admits that the measure would have implications far outside of the birth control context and would clash with dozens of well established laws and court decisions.

Few other lawmakers give Representative Denlinger's "Freedom of Conscience Amendment" a serious chance of becoming part of the state's constitution.

On the other hand, Pennsylvania's first comprehensive, unequivocal ban on discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals seems to be gaining momentum, including a promise from Governor Tom Corbett that he would sign the bipartisan measure if it makes it to his desk. In addition, Representative Pam Snyder introduced a bill in the Pennsylvania House in late January targeting employment discrimination against job applicants based on family status. The law would prohibit employers from asking applicants whether they are married, have children or plan to have children.

Contact a Pennsylvania employment law attorney if you have been discriminated against at work

While some proposed legal changes in Pennsylvania would have the effect of limiting your right to be free from discrimination in the workplace, others that are far more likely to become law actually expand workplace discrimination protections. Even under current law, if you have been discriminated against at work, a variety of legal options may be at your disposal to correct the situation. Talk to a Pennsylvania employment law attorney today to find out if you might have a viable case and to explore what type of legal remedies may be available.

Article provided by McCarthy Weisberg Cummings, P.C.
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